Spoiler Policy: All spoilers up to and including the currently discussed episode will be unmarked. Spoilers for episodes beyond the current point will be enclosed in Future Vision blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.
Official Description: Steven tries to avoid Connie so he doesn’t have to tell her about his most harrowing adventure.
We’ve got a new title card! The beach has been covered in the debris of the gem ship, signifying that the next couple of episodes are going to deal with the fallout of the events of Jail Break.
Indeed, this is the first episode to open directly where the last left off, complete with a star opening that mirrors the star ending. If you’ll recall, the Gems are looking out at the ocean after Lapis dragged Malachite, the fusion of her and Jasper, to the bottom of the sea. Steven has just received a call from Connie, following up on the frantic message he left on her answering machine as he rode Lion back to Beach City, telling her that they all might die.
Oh, and everything’s still on fire.
There are two things I didn’t comment on last time. First, Pearl clings to Garnet when distressed, a behavior we also saw in An Indirect Kiss, and one that indicates how Garnet has taken Rose’s role on the team, at least partially. Secondly, Lion looks like his eye is twitching.
Pearl optimistically comments that things could have been worse. Garnet points out that they also could have gone bet
Connie is trying to get Steven to tell her what happened, but he keeps getting interrupted by Amethyst cheering and celebrating. When Greg drives up, his van still missing its door from when Steven ejected himself in The Return, he tells Connie he’ll call her back.
Steven runs to hug Greg, who is thrilled that his son is safe. He asks if the Crystal Gems were able to beat the invaders, and Steven tells his story, as Greg becomes increasingly distressed: “They totally stomped us! This warrior, Jasper, she was super beefy and knocked me unconscious. Then they abducted me away on the ship because they wanted to take me away forever. And then we crashed the ship and we almost died!”
Steven is disturbingly cheerful as he says all of this, apparently not realizing the effect it will have on Greg. Greg does something rare on the show and asks an appropriate followup question: “Are more Homeworld Gems gonna come after you?” Steven admits he doesn’t know.
Because Jasper, Peridot, and Lapis all end up stranded on Earth, Homeworld never actually gets the message that Rose Quartz is still alive (or so Jasper thinks). They don’t actually send any Homeworld Gems after Steven because they still don’t know he’s here or his importance — the original mission was simply for Peridot to check on the cluster. They do send a Ruby Squad to find Jasper after Peridot defects, and later on send Aquamarine to gather more humans for the Human Zoo, and it is only then that they learn that Steven holds Rose’s gem.
“Steven, I’m supportive and very proud of you, and I’ll be right back.” Greg runs back into his van, searching through a pile of CDs for his “relaxing music.” He accidentally puts in a metal CD and hyperventilates as it vibrates his van, causing the wheels to fall off.
As Steven watches this, Connie calls again, and Steven starts to realize how badly he’s scared the people in his life.
The next morning, Steven still hasn’t talked to Connie. He walks down the beach practicing what he could say to reassure her. “Everything’s fine now,” he says, trailing off as he reaches the Big Donut and finds it heavily damaged.
Steven moves on as his phone continues to ring. He doesn’t answer it, instead trying to think up what to say. “As it turns out, there’s a lot more Gems out there than we thought. And I think they wanna… kill me?” Connie pretty much already knew this, as he already explained to her about Peridot back in Marble Madness.
Steven trips over some of the wreckage, and we get a zoom out to the rest of the Boardwalk, which is heavily damaged. Steven considers telling Connie the message he left was a dream, but decides she’d be too smart to believe that.
Steven heads up to the hill overlooking the town, the same location where the moss bloomed in Lars and the Cool Kids. Here, he has a great view of where the Gem warship crashed into the side of the hill where the Crystal Temple is located. The sight is not helping with his mental state.
Ronaldo walks up from behind him, telling Steven that Mayor Dewey is telling everyone they can come home. When Steven doesn’t respond, clearly unhappy, Ronaldo guesses that Steven has come up to the hill to brood. “That’s just what people like us do. Suffer quietly, shouldering the knowledge no one else can bear,” says Ronaldo, deploying weapons-grade bad advice.
“As an aficionado of the weird yourself, you’ve probably noticed ordinary people fear the cold, leaded anchor of the truth.” It’s kind of funny that Ronaldo considers Steven an “aficionado of the weird” even though he totally glosses over Gem stuff when it comes to weirdness.
Ronaldo talks about the “sacrifices” they make in the paths they’ve chosen. “It’s our duty to let those simple people live out their simple lives, without ever knowing the burden of being friends with us.” His hand gestures indicate the divide between Beach City and the Temple with the flaming wreckage of the warship, something which will come up again.
Of course, Ronaldo is mostly acting this way as a means to cope with the fact that he doesn’t have many friends and tends to push them away. This is terrible advice for Steven, who already struggles with reconciling his humanity with his Gem side.
Much later, Steven will indeed attempt to sacrifice himself to spare the humans of Beach City, an action that is set up almost directly by his behavior in this episode.
“At least we can be there for each other,” says Steven, but Ronaldo immediately gets distracted by the sight of the warship and runs to take pictures for his blog.
Steven starts to sing a song about his feelings, as he does. “Everybody told me Gem stuff’s dangerous / I guess I didn’t believe it / Up til now Dad always seemed apprehensive / But now he’s really freaking out / What do I do? / I don’t want that for you.”
This is the first time Steven’s really had to grapple with the danger of what he’s doing. It’s telling that he’s not thinking about the danger to himself much at all, instead focusing on the wellbeing of his dad and Connie.
I really like how the incessant ringing of Steven’s phone is incorporated into the chorus of the song as Steven tries to ignore it.
Steven flips through silly pictures of him and Connie on his phone. “I have to protect you / What if somehow you get hurt? / What do I do? / I don’t want that for you.”
Steven’s insistence on protecting Connie, rather than working as a team, is one of the main causes of the rift between them in the beginning of Season 5. Steven does rectify this, and they do work as a team against threats throughout the rest of the season.
Connie doesn’t like feeling like a burden that needs to be protected, so this season she’ll begin training in the sword under Pearl, in an episode I’m very excited to reach.
The Crew gets to save some animation budget, as most of the song is accompanied by flashbacks to The Return and Jail Break. “You’re better off not knowing the trouble I’m in,” says Steven, acknowledging that his problems are far from over.
“You don’t have to be a part of this / I don’t think I want you to be / You don’t need this / You don’t need me,” sings Steven, justifying his decision to break off his friendship with Connie. It’s notable that this is all about his feelings, and doesn’t really consider that Connie might freely choose to stick with Steven, despite the danger.
The above lines are also accompanied by a clip of Lapis in her cell. It’s possible that the knowledge that Steven freed Lapis only for her to end up imprisoned and then part of a hate fusion is fueling Steven’s need to push away his friends, believing they’re better off without him.
Steven finally sets his phone to ignore Connie’s calls.
Steven has on his serious face back at the beach house. Garnet says they need to start cleaning up debris, and Pearl agrees, because the people are starting to come back to down. Weird that they’re worried about cleaning up damage now when they didn’t seem to care about helping the humans in Arcade Mania or Political Power, but sure.
“If any humans got access to Gem technology, they could really hurt themselves. Maybe we should shut them out. For good.” His choice of language, separating himself from humans, is obviously forced as he tries to take Ronaldo’s terrible advice and separate himself from humanity.
Pearl doesn’t seem to notice Steven’s obvious change in attitude. “We did once have a fence. Let’s get a new one! With barbed wire!” She’s referring to the fence that Greg took out with his van in Story for Steven.
Amethyst agrees, saying they could build a moat and she could be the crocodile. “You always say you’ll be the crocodile, but you never commit!” says Pearl, annoyed.
I love all the bizarre implications of this line. When did Amethyst offer to be a crocodile before, and why?
Garnet shoots down the idea of a fence, because Steven needs to see his father and his friends. At least she recognizes Steven’s need for his humanity.
“No, I can’t keep clinging to the vestiges of my humanity. It’s time I got serious,” says Steven. This reminds me a lot of Too Many Birthdays, where he decides he needs to grow up and get a job.
Of course, it’s the very fact that Steven is human that allowed the Gems to get out of the situation in Jail Break in the first place. The show makes it quite clear that Steven ever giving up his humanity would be a grave mistake.
Steven’s phone rings, and Pearl wonders why his “communications device is making that sound.” He tells the Gems he’s ignoring Connie because it’s the responsible thing to do. Amethyst says that’s going to be difficult since she’s headed up the stairs.
Pearl awkwardly attempts to stall Connie as Steven climbs out the window and runs behind her. Apparently, Connie has no peripheral vision. When Connie asks what’s happened to Steven, Pearl tells her she doesn’t understand human relationships, and shuts the door on her.
Connie finally turns around and sees Steven running away. She gives chase, and in an unsubtle metaphor, Steven runs away from Connie and into the wreckage of the Gem warship.
Connie ends up in the middle of the wreckage, calling to Steven and asking if she did something wrong.
Throughout S1, Steven was frustrated with the Gems for keeping important information from him and not taking him along on missions in the interest of protecting him. Episodes like The Test and Political Power are very much about that very thing. Yet here Steven is doing the same thing to Connie, shutting her out of his life instead of trusting her to be able to handle it.
Instead of talking to Connie directly, Steven sends a text message: “I don’t want to be friends anymore.”
Connie refuses to accept this unless Steven says it to her face. “If you can do that, I’ll leave you alone, and I’ll just go back to having no friends.” This goes back to her first appearance in Bubble Buddies, where she said that she didn’t have any friends before Steven.
Steven appears on top of one of the former fingers of the Gem warship, looking shadowy and menacing…
…only to completely break down when he actually has to talk to Connie face to face. “I still wanna be friends!” he cries.
Connie wants to know what happened to his eye. Steven says he was just trying to protect her, and Connie stops him, asking him to tell her everything.
Even though Connie was upset about Steven’s behavior, she sets it aside when she sees how much he’s hurting. Their reunion is similar to Ruby and Sapphire’s “Are you hurt?” “Who cares?” “I do!”
Steven and Connie sit on the beach and talk about the events of the past two episodes.
Connie: So Lapis and Jasper are somewhere underwater.
Steven: Yeah, and Peridot escaped while the ship was coming down. She could be anywhere.
This sets up the ongoing plotlines for Season 2.
Connie admits that it’s a lot to handle, but the least she can do is just listen. Steven says that he can’t ask her to do that, and Connie drops this line that I’m sure she’s been saving since S1: “I want to, Steven. I want to be a part of your universe.”
This drives home that Steven’s original idea to break off their friendship without ever talking to Connie was really robbing Connie of her agency. Instead of deciding she doesn’t “need” all of Steven’s Gem problems in her life, they should be making that choice together, and taking into account what Connie wants. Unfortunately, this isn’t the last time he’ll make that mistake.
Greg drives up in his van, asking if Connie needs a ride home. Steven asks if he’s okay, and he says he “got it out of [his] system.” The episode ends with Greg driving through Beach City as the residents clean up the damage. Sadie sure was quick to fix up the Big Donut, huh? They’ve already got the glass repaired and you know Lars didn’t help.
This is a solid opener to my favorite season of Steven Universe, dealing with the fallout of Jail Break while setting up plot threads for the rest of the season. Steven Universe becomes a lot more serialized with less standalone episodes post-Season 1, a change that was already starting in S1B. The recapping of The Return and Jail Break that happens a few times in this episode is not all that necessary, but I get the impression that they didn’t know when this would air.
Next Time on Steven Universe Future! The gang travels to Canadia for a road trip filled with fun, maple syrup and Camp Pining Hearts as they track down Peridot, who has become a pro gamer and landed a lucrative Doritos sponsorship.
…or Steven finds Peridot’s escape pod, one of those things.
Note: I realize I said I was covering Attack the Light but that article really wasn’t coming together, so I decided to just do a regular episode recap instead. I might come back to it at some point, but until then, I’m resuming regular programming.